The Creative Entrepreneur

I am interested in the potential of the profile of the average creative entrepreneur to lead us out of our post-2008 doldrums, a profile that can marry the creation of economic wealth with other value-added contributions of strong ethics to return us to as much respect for our social and cultural wealth as Western cultures have given to money since the 1980s.

Commercial and creative values

Modern business practice seeks to converge with the domestic and international objectives of state sovereignty, but the activities of the cultural sector have the opposite tendency, diverging towards an endless dispersion of work and the development of multitudes of concepts, at home and abroad. Yet our creative entrepreneurs have developed good business values all the same, providing monetary value through the exchange of finance for creative rights which creates value from their values. (I use the word value with deliberate ambiguity because these entrepreneurs enmesh values with value all the time and instinctively.)

On the business side, our young creative entrepreneurs are even creating incremental value: extension of the market, product enhancement, innovation, customer relations, quality, partnership, employee involvement. But unusually in the business context this has been achieved on the values side.

For the success of these creative entrepreneurs requires bravery, vision, respect for self and others, trust, honesty, generosity and fortitude. The practice of modern cultural commerce has taught them that the current state and rate of global change are constant and through this they have developed the timeless disciplines of the successful entrepreneur: integrity, service above self, tenacity, persistence. These entrepreneurs know that their most valuable asset is their reputation.

The increasing connectedness of world populations has developed a practice of international and cultural relations that now by-passes state agencies, where creators and consumers are moving in the digital space freely and directly, in full control of expression, production and distribution, regardless of real world topographies.

Creatives are extraordinarily difficult people to control at the best of times, yet the busting of the frontier as a physical barrier has meant that states are seeing their cultural diplomacy efforts being increasingly developed by these new actors, who are also less motivated by the concerns of a strictly national view. Worse, from the nation-states’ point of view, these actors are strongly influenced by their own collegiate and collaborative creation processes, which transcend 19th century definitions of statehood and citizenship. These entrepreneurs are true internationalists.

New values of cultural conduct

Creative entrepreneurs have invented the open source, no longer selling IPRs but licensing them to be improved by another in collective enterprise. (I am grateful to a much quoted blog entry by Simon Phipps on infoworld.com for the following overview of the open-source):

“Open source may be defined as the co-development of software by a community of people who have chosen to realign a fragment of their self-interest in order to do so. The practice of exploiting open source hard and soft wares to develop new products in the creative industries has freed up the processes of creation on a massive scale and we are seeing rapid development of new products through the progressive aggregation of each former product and format. The community members each work at their own expense in order to achieve a shared outcome that benefits all, including themselves. When they create an enhancement, fix a defect or participate in a design, they are not working for free or donating their work so much as participating in co-development.”

Peer values provide strong guidelines to the professional conduct of these entrepreneurs. Development communities based in open-source show that:

  • attempting to retain control of a project leads to mistrust, contention and a rules-based focus that diminishes your reputation within the networks and directly affecting your income potential
  • relaxing control leads to the community innovating and growing in ways not anticipated, as well as enhancing reputations

These new entrepreneurs have learnt to trade control for influence, an eminently diplomatic value, because in a meshed society control gets marginalised while influence delivers success.

What of their skills?

The array of skills developed by our creative entrepreneurs is quite staggering and has become increasingly essential in this globalised world.

First there is aggregation. The notion that the creative industries are defined by wealth creation through exploiting one’s IPRs has been challenged, as these young creative entrepreneurs give away their IPRs in the interests of the wealth that can be created from aggregated knowledge. These digital world citizens own the means of their own creativity in both production and distribution and also develop their expressive skills. They develop platforms for varying levels of attention that cleverly exploit the same content several times, extracting the maximum juice from a single core idea. They no longer sell their IPRs but license them to be improved by others in one collective enterprise, unleashing the power of wealth creation through aggregation by re-aligning those fragments of his or her self-interest.

Collaboration: As anyone involved in the knowledge economy knows, no single entity can now monopolise what needs to be known to make these (frequently intangible) products. This has forced the re-emergence of the collective as the preferred creative dynamo where each remains individual as he or she contributes to the collective product from his or her unique skills base.

The Matrix: These entrepreneurs create work environments that are matrices, flat networks that focus on the applications of the product with the customer, called the UX (user-experience). These formats adapt well to sectorial differences and varying levels of production across regions, encouraging interdisciplinary communication. This extends skills and facilitates flexibility in order to achieve results, yet still maintains a professional standard.

UX, the user experience. Thus do they remain wholly focussed with the team on the UX. Strong social and cultural values is shifting the driver for wealth creation away from the aggregation of content with its obsession with formats, towards the qualities of the user experience. This focus on the customer drives a new understanding that wealth will only follow if content is grounded in high quality and remains both relevant and timely. This content will only be engaged with if delivered as a narrative (creating a new over-arching team role known as story architect), and inside format developments that are increasingly driven by a complex knowledge of the human attention span.

Relevance

Our creative entrepreneurs have the relevant skills:

  • Divergent thinking: to generate multiple answers to a set of problems that will result in insight.
  • Incubation, that oh-so-creative break from problem-solving.
  • Blending, to exploit the mental representations of an insight & permit the structured testing of new concepts.
  • Honing, to fashion an integrated world view by resolving dissonance and seeking internal consistency.

They work in the relevant context:

  • Entrepreneurs in the creative industries inhabit a context radically different to the one that threw up the old diplomatic reliabilities.
  • Globalised, they see the narrowing of opportunity and mobility for other populations.
  • Pluralised, they witness the reduction in planetary cultural diversity.

These entrepreneurs operate comfortably in a pluralist world of globalised economic and social poles, of value-added and added values, where the integration of international trade, the increased role of international organisations, the strategic role of education and research and the pervasive issue of security meet the need for sustainable development with its concomitant sensitivity to the imbalance of global wealth distribution and the impact of globalisation on cultural identity.

They have the relevant values:

  • Alert to inequalities, they know of the increasing gap between rich and poor. They are also the new diplomats, for their work has not only produced a higher level of business productivity but in doing so has raised migration levels, made more skilled workers available, integrated colleges and universities into major international trade flows.
  • Environmentally aware, they live the loss of balance in the environment. They have made cities and regions the competitive hubs, raised levels of interest in the equality of cultural difference and specificity, and produced a generation more at ease with a balance between economic and social development.
  • Creative democrats, they resist the triumph of competition over collaboration. Their engagement with social media strengthens their capacity for action and influence. It has opened them up to a spirit of openness, tolerance and hospitality, motivating them to contribute to the safety of both their community and show more international solidarity. The working topography has been exploded and the notion of border has all but disappeared in favour of sector or comparative size of operation.
  • They push – not pull – to counter the triumph of the individual over the group. Their activities naturally “push” more than they “pull”, exploiting the multiplier effect of their medium and creating work teams capable of a mobile response. These practices promote diversity and emphasise quality of life, creating social and cultural wealth as much as economic wealth.

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